Beliefnet
Mark D. Roberts

What Should You Do When People Speak Poorly of You?

I love them, but they try to destroy me with accusations
even as I am praying for them!

 

Psalm 109:4

Psalm 109 is David’s prayer when people around him were speaking poorly of him. Their criticisms, though untrue, were nevertheless painful (109:2). David’s pain was increased by the fact that those who accused him were people he had loved and for whom he prayed (109:4). Though he treated them well, they responded with evil and hatred (109:5).
I expect that you have experienced something like David’s anguish as it’s expressed in Psalm 109. It often begins in childhood, when supposed friends gossip about us and criticize us behind our backs. Sometimes demeaning words from our parents sear our souls, leaving us scarred and defensive. The workplace can even reward those who falsely accuse us, giving them the promotion that we deserved. As a pastor, I sometimes found myself the victim of false accusations. They hurt even worse when they came from people I had tried to love and to whom I had vulnerably opened my heart.
So what should we do when people accuse us falsely? How should we act when we are victims of mean-spirited gossip? In such a situation, it’s awfully tempting to give it right back to those have slandered us. But Psalm 109 reminds us that our first response when we are victims of injustice should be to turn to God. Like David, we cry out to God, asking him to help us. In pouring out our hurt and anger, in letting God know everything we think and feel, we will open our hearts to his calming presence. We will be reassured because God “stands beside the needy, ready to save them from those who condemn them” (109:31). At times we will even know the joy of the Lord in the midst of distress: “When they attack me, they will be disgraced! But I, your servant, will go right on rejoicing!” (109:28).
Prayer is not magic, however. When we turn to God in a crisis we do not necessarily feel instant relief. Sometimes, like David, we’ll cry out: “O God, whom I praise, don’t stand silent and aloof” (109:1). Yet if we turn our hearts to the Lord, if we seek him openly, he will, in his time, make himself known to us afresh. He will grant us his “peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Phil 4:7).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
Have you experienced something like David described in Psalm 109? When? What did you do? How does turning to God make a difference in the way we respond to those who falsely accuse us?
PRAYER:
Gracious Lord, thank you for being there when I am falsely accused. Thank you for your calming presence, your peace, your reassurance. Thank you for helping me not to respond to my accusers in the way I might without you.
As I think about false accusation, Lord, I also realize how easy it is for me to consider even valid criticism as untrue. So help me to sort out what is true and right from what is wrong and vicious. As I bare my heart to you, may I hear the things I need to hear, even if they are painful in their truth.
Today I pray for people who are victims of slander. I think especially of several friends who are seeking to make a difference in our society through their work. Yet they are consistently attacked by their opponents. Grant to these friends your gracious presence, and to all who are victims of slander.
All praise be to you, God of truth and comfort. Amen.

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This devotional comes from The High Calling of Our Daily Work (www.thehighcalling.org), a wonderful website about work and God. You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace.

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